Four years ago everything in my life fell apart at once. Within the span of a few short months, my family got pummeled with bad news. My mother-in-law received a terminal cancer diagnosis. Next, my uncle passed away from a long battle with vascular disease. Finally, my son’s health continued to decline with no known origin. I felt helpless, powerless, and overwhelmed by the stress and sadness. A friend suggested I find a church to attend and encouraged me that faith would help me through the trauma. I searched for a church, and I found one I felt would meet my needs. The first time I attended, volunteers and staffed bombarded me with love and kindness. The attention and love made me feel intoxicated and happy. What I didn’t know then but know now was I got love-bombed, and the technique altered my thoughts.
In the early months at the church, volunteers and staff went out of their way to help me. After my first service, I got a letter in the mail thanking me for attending. The envelope included a gift card for free coffee. I remember feeling grateful that a church went out of their way to welcome new members.
Anytime I had questions; there was always someone at the church available to help me. They listened with attentive ears. I was encouraged to get involved with the church. The staff said that there were members of the church looking for friendship. They urged me to consider finding a community in their church. After years of being alone and without friends, the invitation was too good to pass up.
Without a ton of thinking, I dove right into the church and community. The intoxication I felt from the congregation made me want to be there all the time. Even though I struggled with some of the sermons or beliefs of the church, I wanted the community they offered me.
For my entire life, I had always been a very liberal, progressive, and open-minded person. I believed in helping others, and I fought for equality for all people. My core beliefs were rooted in all people having the same access and rights to life. Additionally, I believed firmly in science and education. I knew this philosophy might be at war with the world of Christianity.
Early on I tried hard to push aside the messages I heard in the sermons or from members that conflicted with my values. The pastor preached the Biblical philosophy of marriage. All of our sermons revolved around marriage between only men and women.
During these sermons, I felt conflicted and frustrated. No part of me believed love was contingent on gender or sex. I thought marriage should exist between two consenting adults.
The pastor preached a lot about marriage relationships. He believed that the man of the family was in charge of the leadership of the family. I grew up in a family where my parents carried equal ranks in their marriage. My family didn’t have a patriarchial make-up. When I married my husband, we had the same kind of relationship. I never looked at my husband to be my leader.
Even though the messages conflicted with my values, I pushed it all away because of the love I felt. No matter what I went through emotionally, there was always someone that could be there for me. I received invitations to parties, playdates, and coffee outings with members. They invited me to yoga, exercise classes, or to go running. During this time, I never felt alone.
Then I started hearing members talk about vaccines. Many of them appeared to be very against modern medicine. Women exchanged homemade remedies to manage illness. Several of them shared information with me about essential oils, elderberry syrup, bone broth, and breathing techniques to reduce “symptoms.”
People at church distrusted the government. Members called politics and issues outside of church “Of this World.” Many lived for the world of Jesus. The world outside of Christ was outside of their values.
My congregation spent most of their time living for their next life that they sacrificed their happiness. At church, the staff told us that personal preferences were selfish. They encouraged us to set aside our preferences and desires for the greater good of the church. Everything we did as a congregation was designed to recruit new members. Services were made to entice and draw in people afraid of attending church. We were instructed to be kind, friendly, and helpful to any first-time guests that visit.
Quickly, I learned many of the people I called friends didn’t vaccinate their children. Many didn’t send their children to public schools. Several parents didn’t trust doctors. We heard sermons that told us college education didn’t matter.
Soon I found myself doubting critical beliefs I had in science and public school. I started thinking about homeschooling my son. Then I started learning about essential oils and other homemade “cures” to treat my families ailments. I even tried to ditch my pharmaceutical medications and manage my mental health issues on my own.
The love-bombing at the beginning was a high I chased for three years. I wanted that love. To achieve that love, I set aside my values. When I woke up one morning, I realized I hated the person I had become.
I needed to sever my connection to the church. However, I knew this meant I had to let go of all of my friendships. The hardest part was realizing that to walk away; I had to walk away from a community.
For months I agonized about leaving the community that made me feel loved. I didn’t want to be alone again.
But I realized I couldn’t be in a community that was contrary to everything I valued in life.
Then one day I had enough. There wasn’t a dramatic reason for my departure. I couldn’t live a lie anymore. I wasn’t a person that believed gay people were sinners. Science, public education, and gender equality were issues too crucial for me to ignore. When I decided to leave, I walked away and tried not to look back.
After leaving my mind felt less conflicted. I didn’t have to worry about how my views lived in contrast to the Bible. I no longer spent nights awake worrying that I couldn’t believe in teachings from the Bible. No, leaving gave my mind freedom I needed to be happy.
I’ve learned now that the way the church recruited me is a tactic of mind-control that is pervasive in the Christian faith. The technique of love-bombing is used to entice and overwhelm new members with love attention. Through the attention and love, new members believe and trust the group. How could a group be dangerous if they are so kind?
When the attention and affection wore off for me, I realized that my mind had been altered. The intoxicating love I felt made unwilling to see red-flags within the community. I dismissed questionable behavior by leadership because of that love.
I’m grateful I broke free from the church. I got out before any more damage could be done to my family or me.
Love-bombing is a technique used in cults and in any organization that wants to reshape your thoughts.
Beware of any organization that showers you with attention.
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